Berlin Travel Guide | Pt. 1 - Tips, Places to See and Things to Do
Contributed by: @ImAdeAkins
Berlin is a must-see city for anyone who enjoys and appreciates culture, arts, nightlife, history and getting around easily. With routine promotions and deals to fly to Berlin from London, there's no reason to not go and explore for a few days.
In this Berlin travel guide, I am going to share my tips, places to see and things to do in 1 of my favourite European Cities.
WHERE TO STAY?
It's all about PLUS Berlin Hotel & Hostel. The word ‘hostel’ in my mind had long been associated with other words such as ‘dirty’, ‘smelly’, ‘basic’ and ‘cheap’ but rest assured this couldn't be further from the truth. Ideal for those travelling alone or in a group, PLUS Berlin offers you everything you'd need and more and the vibe is top-notch.
I stayed for 4 nights in 2014 which cost 27 euros a night for a bed in a mixed dorm for 4 people. I came to this decision by comparing reviews of hostels on HostelWorld, (click here to see reviews of PLUS). If you're still uneasy about hostels, get in touch with me and I'll help assess if its right for you.
Assuming like me you fly into Berlin Schönefeld Airport, you'll need to follow directions to the S-Bahn station, (Berlin’s oveground rail network) to get into the city.
Tip: To avoid ridiculous queues at the machines, buy your tickets directly from the platform.
Berlin has fantastic transport besides just the S-Bahn. There’s also the U-Bahn (underground network), buses and trams. The S and U-bahn trains can require you having to leave the station and take a brief walk of a few hundred metres when interchanging. There are signs everywhere so don't sweat it. Transport seems to run around the clock so you will never be stranded.
Alternatively you can rent a bicycle for about 10-12 Euros a day as a cheap way of discovering this awesome city.
Download an offline map before you leave home as there are no maps at stations like you’d expect. I've used Ulmon (CityMaps2Go) when I visit. Not only does it allow you to navigate the city offline, it also tells you where the nearest restaurants, bars, attractions etc are.
I was surprised to find out that Berlin is not a card-friendly city. Many places don’t accept card and if they do there’s often a 15 EUR minimum spend. Cash is king, but if you have a card with 0% fees for use abroad then you’d be a fool to not take advantage of this where possible. In terms of spending money I would treat it just as you would London.
THINGS TO SEE & DO
EAST SIDE GALLERY (BERLIN WALL)
Located minutes away from PLUS Berlin, the East Side Gallery or Berlin Wall is by far the 1 thing you have to see whilst in Berlin. Graffiti and street art is everywhere in Berlin; literally plastered on practically every wall and the East Side Gallery is the most famous of them all.
Deeper meanings exist behind the art once you know the historical context of the East/West Germany split. However, even from just a superficial level, most of the art and murals are just breathtaking and thought-provoking.
A collection of 4 museums situated next to each other all offering something different). When I last visited, I only had time to visit the Pergamon Museum but I would advise getting there early and trying to do a couple at least.
This area is really trendy with some boutique style stores as well as well known premium stores. Loads of places to eat round there too and walking distance from Museum Island.
This is the tourist hub and is really thriving in the evening. With a number of market stalls, shops, a nearby shopping mall called Alexa, the TV tower and a plethora of places to eat this is a place to go). It is conveniently walking distance from the two things mentioned directly above.
Be sure to book tickets in advance for the English version. Great historical context of Hitler’s influence in the design of this stadium and the Olympic games in General. were as well as extensive access to pretty much the whole stadium. There’s also the Olympic swimming pool which is open to the public with a diving board.
This particular activity was booked through work on my second trip to Berlin. There are various providers offering this and I would definitely urge you to book yourself on one.
AKA, a better version of London's Marble Arch if you ask me.
There is so much to do in Berlin that I still need to explore myself. Luckily, I am heading back to Berlin in December, 2016 so I can give you the low-down on what's what.
MORE PLACES TO SEE & MORE THINGS TO DO
- MARKTHALLE NEUN - This food market has a brisket sandwich which is meant to be divine apparently but I didn't have time to try it out during my visit. If you do go, let me know how it is.
- CHECKPOINT CHARLIE - This was the border crossing in Berlin during the Cold War. If you've watched Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks you'll know what I'm on about.
- TOPOGRAPHY OF TERROR -This museum documents the atrocities Jewish people had to endure during Hitler’s rampage.
- REICHSTAG BUILDING - Who knew a parliamentary building could be interesting? There are great views of the city from the dome upstairs. It's free admission but extremely popular so you need to book at least 7 days in advance for a tour and general admission.
- BERLIN PASS- This offers a number of benefits that in hindsight I wish I took advantage of. From discounted entry to a number of attractions to unlimited travel I would certainly advise this too.
- BERLIN ZOO
- HOT ROD CAR TOUR
- FREE WALKING TOURS - Berlin like many other cities offer tours lasting about 2-3 hours. These are IDEAL for ticking a few things off the list and getting great insight into the history as well as great places to eat, drink, relax and party. Find out the times of these from your accomodation and if possible, coordinate your trip so that you do this on your first day.
- BERLIN BITE CLUB - This is an annual street food/party featuring great grub and tasty drinks in the summer time.
- DOODS - Part restaurant, part store selling alcohol as well as streetwear and part bar. This weak description doesn't do it justice but believe me, if quirky is for you then be sure to check out Doods.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS ON BERLIN
The city is full of so much energy, the people are friendly and its so easy to get around. It is definitely somewhere I would consider living 1 day and that says a lot.
Let me know if this has been helpful or if you've been to Berlin yourself and want to add some suggestions by dropping a comment. Be sure to look out for Berlin Travel Blog | Pt. 2 - Eating, Drinking & Nightlife.
Ade Akins (@ImAdeAkins)